As its new stations are unveiled, the £16 billion Crossrail project is set to redraw central London's property map. Designs for eight new central London Crossrail stations have been unveiled following the Government's spending review pledge to continue funding the £16 billion east-west train link, due for completion in 2017.
As with previous transport upgrades, such as the Jubilee Tube extension and the DLR, these new Crossrail hubs are set to be a major regeneration catalyst. Not only will the immediate vicinity around the new showpiece stations be physically transformed with new homes, smart shops and offices built above them, there will also be attractive new open spaces and public areas.
Hot tip: Farringdon
Informed property watchers have their eye on one particular place — the City-fringe district of Farringdon. Now one of London's quieter mainline stations, by 2017 Farringdon will be Britain's busiest, with a sevenfold increase in commuters and 140 trains per hour passing through it.
With the advent of Crossrail, Farringdon will be the only London terminus with fully integrated north-south (of the river) and east-west routes; Thameslink — also being upgraded — and the Tube. It will provide direct links to Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton and London City airports as well to Eurostar services at St Pancras and trains to Brighton on the south coast.
Property investment opportunities will be substantial in and around the area. Farringdon sits on the western edge of Clerkenwell and for some time has been an area in transition.
It remains a small-scale business district, popular with creative-sector companies and has a lively nightclub scene, but the projected transport improvements are attracting big corporate occupiers such as Merrill Lynch.
Insiders believe Crossrail will spur the long-delayed redevelopment of nearby Smithfield Market, where a new station entrance is planned. The site has scope for a giant mixed-use scheme, including hundreds of new homes and much-needed shops.
Clerkenwell has become a vast media village but it is beginning to attract City singles — mainly bachelor bankers and lawyers — happy to get home to a relaxed and fashionable young area. David Salvi of estate agent Hurford Salvi Carr: "At the moment Clerkenwell has no direct train link to Heathrow; Crossrail will change this but I think the major plus will be the much quicker connections to Canary Wharf and the West End."
Who's buying now?
Already, boutique apartment schemes are growing up on either side of Farringdon station. Salvi says local niche developers are back on the scene and up to a dozen schemes are in the pipeline.
Prime rump stake
Homebuyers are bound to focus on areas and neighbourhoods thrown into the spotlight by the new route. Though there is no immediate rush to buy, those who make bold decisions now can expect to benefit over the longer term. Off-plan buying opportunities are available in some areas right now.